All / Originally Posted on Skirt

The Mysterious Case of the Mendacious Mennonites (…Well, Not Really)

Did I tell you about the Mennonites at the rest stop?

When my mom and I were driving back to Florida from Pennsylvania last month, we pulled into a rest stop in West Virginia.  As we went into the ladies’ room we saw a small handwritten sign that said: “Beware of placing your purse on the floor or hanging it on the hook on the stall door!  There has been a purse-snatching scam!  If you see anything suspicious, please report it to Management.”

Does anything odd strike you about the wording of that sign?  It did me.  Purse-snatching, in itself, is not a scam.  Illegal, yes, but the word ‘scam’ implies some sort of scheming or plotting or confidence trickstering.  Purse-snatching doesn’t need a con, just speed.  In order for it to be a scam, you’d have to, say, create a diversion that distracted a woman’s attention and THEN snatch her purse, not just lift it off a poorly-placed hook.

When we went into the restroom, there were two Mennonites, a grandmotherly figure and a young girl.  I know they were Mennonites because they were dressed similarly to the Amish–long woolen skirts in subdued colors, bonnets covering their hair, wooden clogs.  I remember seeing Mennonites at the hospital as a child when we went to visit my grandfather.  They couldn’t be Amish because the Amish refuse to use modern technology of any kind that hasn’t been accepted by church leaders; they believe in self-sufficiency and living off the land, etc.  We’re talking about a group of people who reject buttons–buttons!!–on the grounds that they’re too ostentatious.  Mennonites, on the other hand, frequently dress modestly and plainly like the Amish but they might, say, have a fridge.

Given that rest stops are only accessible by motorized vehicles, these two had to be Mennonites.  (Every time I see Mennonites at a rest stop I’m always tempted to try and see what kind of car they’re driving, but I haven’t yet been crass enough to actually follow them.)

Now, I know this is stupid, but here we are in West Virginia and we’ve just seen these Mennonite ladies in the restroom–unusual enough by itself–but paired with the sign that said there had been a “purse-snatching scam”, the little wheels of my brain began to turn.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  I’m sure Mennonites at rest stops frequently get strange looks (“What are those Amish people doing on the freeway?”) but I doubt they’ve ever been looked at suspiciously by someone wondering if they were the ringleaders of some sort of vast Mennonite purse-snatching gang.  (They have to fund all those bonnets somehow!)

I narrowed my eyes.  If one of them pretended to pass out, I decided, we would know who these mysterious purse-snatching scammers were, and I wouldn’t take my eyes off the other one for a second.  I got a firm grip on my purse.  The two of them then, without batting an eyelid, finished washing their hands and quietly exited the restroom.

The restroom stall also contained a copy of the handwritten “purse-snatching scam” sign.  I decided the rest stop management had an overactive imagination, and that in future they should take more scrupulous care in wording their hand-lettered signs.

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